More on Poulsbo (GMA500), Intel, and the Community

by Shawn Powers

I've never done a follow up post on a topic before, but I think this is a topic worth further discussion. Yesterday I posted a rather pointed article focused on Intel and what I consider to be a very poor business decision regarding the GMA500 GPU. There were great comments, and even a responsive post over at Moblinzone.

The opposing argument is that it's not Intel's fault that the GMA500 graphics core is so unsupported in Linux, but that it's the vendor's fault for using the thing in the first place. Oh please.

If I were a factory producing forks, and a hair brush distributor approached me to buy my new 5-tined fork to sell as a comb -- I'd say no. As owner of the Finglehopper Fork Factory, I'm more concerned about the value of my brand than I am about selling my forks to someone who will use my name to misrepresent my product. The GMA500 + the Atom 1.3Ghz CPU was Intel's answer for vendor's demands for lower power, higher performance solutions. That was their answer, they weren't "bamboozled" into selling the product to companies with ill intent. So either Intel was bullied into selling the wrong product (meaning they are weak and/or don't care about their brand), or they didn't care about the consequences for consumers.

Either option is ugly for Intel, and even still they handled things poorly:

1) They put their name on a GPU that was developed by Imagination Technologies, using drivers written by Tungsten Graphics. I have serious doubts the PR department was contacted before making this decision. This is my biggest beef with the company, because they've built up my trust as a company that supports Linux with their product line.

2) Even with the above change in dealing with the Linux (and computer users in general) community, Intel fails to accommodate us in other ways. NVIDIA has closed drivers, and yet they manage to honor Linux users with usable video drivers. Do I wish NVIDIA had open drivers? You bet. But at least they provide usability.

3) Rather than provide ABSURDLY limited Linux drivers, Intel should have just not supported Linux at all. I feel most sorry for those folks that bought the Dell Mini 12 with Ubuntu pre-installed. Certainly if Ubuntu was pre-installed the hardware would be Linux compatible. Um, nope. Yes, perhaps Dell should have read their contract with Intel better, but come on, Intel sold their stuff with no upgrade path? I'm sorry, but that's just dumb.

So in the end is Intel the only company to blame? I suppose not. Dell, Acer, Sony -- you guys should have known better. In fact, with this black eye, perhaps you have learned and won't trust Intel anymore. If only there were other companies making CPUs... (PS: Hey guys, I can provide you with links if you need them)

And even if you buy into the idea that Intel is blameless in this GMA500 debacle, they're certainly the only folks that can fix it. So I reiterate:

Dear Intel,
Please do something. I don’t want Windows on my Acer, and I’m sure there are a lot of folks with the Dell Mini 12 that would rather not keep their old version of Ubuntu in order to use their netbook. We’re still friends, let’s make up, OK? Make it right, and we’ll chalk this up to a bad oversight.


Shawn Powers

Linux User, Linux Journal Associate Editor, and Intel fan with a bone to pick.